The calendar says that we have over a month of summer yet, but already change is in the air. Some trees are flecked with orange and yellow in the park where I run. The temperature is slowly dropping from a daytime high in the 90s to the upper 70s. People are returning from vacation and school is right around the corner.
I’m thinking alot about change these days because I’m leading our congregation through a time of transition. I remember reading somewhere that healthy churches go through a season of significant change about every five years or so. That sounds about right to me. If you pastor a church long enough, you will eventually have to navigate through the seas of change — that is, unless you choose to resist the winds of the Spirit. That may be one reason why short-term pastorates are so common. You can find a new assignment instead of dealing with the tough work of leading people through the turbulence.
I don’t enjoy change any more than the next guy. In fact, I’ve discovered that in many ways change is more painful for the leader because you become the focal point for everyone’s sadness and anger and questioning. But at times like these, I stand on a handful of convictions:
* All living things, including churches, change. The alternative is stagnancy and eventual death.
* God orchestrates change. He led the Israelites across the Jordan into the Promised Land. Jesus talked about new wineskins for the new wine of the Kingdom he was bringing. His Spirit “transforms us from one degree of glory to another” (II Cor. 3:18). If we don’t want change, the last People we want to spend life with are/is the Trinity.
*Letting go of something familiar frees us to grasp God’s new activity. We cling to the familiar because it’s comfortable and secure. God desires something more for our lives and our churches than comfort and security. He desires transformation.
* It’s not really the change itself that we don’t like; it’s the process of change. It’s the period of transition between what was and what will be that can be so turbulent. It’s my job to help shepherd the people through that turbulence — not to protect them from the change.
*God will bring us through. His church has survived millenia of persecution and political unrest and worship wars. He will bring us through this, too. I’m banking on that.
So what helps you get through the seasons of change?